Life continues to develop here at L2o. August saw the introduction of geoduck clams to the Pacific side of our tank system. They are otherworldly in appearance, a striking example of how diverse and complex life in the ocean can be. The geoduck is prized for its siphon's distinct texture, which is cleaned then sliced thinly and served raw. The geoduck clam lives underneath the ocean floor, burrowed into the sand and silt with their siphon peeking just through the top surface to filter feed on the ocean water. Because of shifting sands and shoals on the ocean floor, the clam's siphon has the extraordinary ability to stretch and contract to meet just the top of the soil, so as not be exposed to leave itself suceptible to predators. The siphon when contracted does not measure more than 6-8 inches, but can stretch out to extend past 2 feet. The siphon's complex muscle structure, which allows it to expand and contract so easily, is what gives the flesh of the siphon it's distinct texture when cut. The connective tissue, when cut with a knife, contracts suddenly (think about cutting a stretched rubber band), tensing the muscle tissue around it, which creates a wonderfully unique crunchy texture. However, this texture can only be acheived if the clam has been recently killed. As the muscle deadens, the tissue begins to relax (a good thing if you are talking about slaughtered land animals) and the muscle tissue will not tense up from the knife's cut. Again, the tank gives us the ability to keep the animal alive and healthy until just before service, allowing us to serve the geoduck at its best.
Further, we've begun introducing langoustines to the tank. The acclimation is tricky for these sensitive little crustaceans. We hope to develop the process with them so as to have them featured regularly on our menu.
In late August, after months of planning and plotting, we began a new menu format. We are now offering a 7 course prix fixe menu, as well as a 15 course tasting menu. Over the past year, we have had friends of the house and family that we have designed special tasting menus to give a more complete view of what we have to offer and what our kitchen can do. I wanted to be able to share this with all of our guests, not just a handful of them. Also, I wanted to offer more of what the ocean has to offer. Geoduck clams, blue lobsters, langoustines, and giant octopus are all fantastic creatures, but fleeting and sensitive by nature. It would not be possible to do so unless I knew that I would have a consistent outlet to serve them at their very best. Creating our tank program was the first step towards our ability to present these wonders, and the new menu is the next step.
We are currently at week 4, and the kitchen is beginning to hit stride, adjusting and adapting to the new challenge. It's exciting to have a new medium, which is already changing the way that we cook. With smaller courses and more of them, it changes how we look at the course progression, the flavors presented, the methods involved in the cooking, and the means of presentation of our food. In a year that has seen the loss of several of Chicago's fine dining restaurants, and a move towards more casual fare citywide, I feel lucky that we are going deeper into our craft here at L2o. Get excited, more soon.